Best Ways to Recycle and Compost Dog Waste Free
Dog waste should be composted, not put into a septic tank; it heats up enough to destroy pathogens and provides nutrients that can be utilized in your yard and under your trees. Composting dog waste also keeps tons of material being added to a system already overwhelmed. This article will explain how to correctly make a compost heap out of your dogs waste without buying all of those things other sites are trying to sell you.
It is unfortunate that since the introduction of Steve Solomon´s great Organic Gardeners Composting back in the 1980s that so many people have followed his suggestions without reasoning them out. Mr. Solomon-unaware of how to correctly compost dog stools to destroy parasites-recommended that dog waste not be added to compost. Since then most articles recommend the same. For fifteen years there have been sites on the internet that claim to be “composting” dog waste but are actually proposing the construction of small sewage systems.
You can compost your dog´s poop.
Dog waste (poop) should be composted, not put into a septic tank, because it heats up enough to destroy the pathogens and provides nutrients that can be utilized in your yard. Composting dog waste, and not throwing it in a landfill, also keeps tons of material being added to a system already overwhelmed.
This article is not about to teach you how to build a dog waste septic system. If you want to do that you can go out and buy a barrel and then there are about 100 other sites on the internet that will show you what to do. Sewage systems that require the purchase of large plastic containers and chemical inoculants purchased at the grocery store are neither friendly to the environment nor friendly to your budget.
This article will tell you the benefits of correctly composting your dog´s stool and also tell you how to do it properly. If you have a cat, and you use biodegradable litter, her waste can be added also.
Why bother composting dog waste?
Each year tons of dog stool are thrown into trash cans and end up in sanitary landfills. When dog waste is composted it becomes a nutrient that will improve your yard and trees. When your soil is lacking in organic matter no amount of chemical fertilizer you purchase is going to improve things the way you want. The compost you produce, with the material you already have on hand (dog waste), will improve things the way you want.
If you live in an apartment I realize that this is not a viable option. You have nowhere to compost and wouldn’t have anything to do with the compost anyway.
Are there problems with using dog waste?
There are some pathogens that can spread from dogs to humans. Most of the bacteria will die easily, and in The Humanure Handbook (Chapter 7, Worms and Disease) the author says that roundworms can survive for 90 days in a shady area.
The University of Minnesota did some research in this area and determined that in order to destroy harmful worm eggs your compost would need to exceed 165 degrees for five days. The University of Oregon ran tests and determined that a compost pile that reached 130 degrees and was turned five times (at 3 day intervals) would no longer contain pathogens.
If you live in a suburb and only have a small space your really need to build or buy a compost system. I have added a plan here and there are numerous videos available on YouTube to help you build a compost bin. If you need further instructions on how to utilize this composting system you can purchase an e-book called Humanure Toilet Instruction Manual.
How do I compost dog waste the right way?
You do not need to buy a storage bin, you certainly do not need to buy a chemical to add to your compost mixture. The process is ridiculously simple.
1.Mark the area where you will be composting. Some people will need to do it in a trash bin to save space, and if you have a smaller back yard this is the best way. If you need to save money find an old trash bin that someone is throwing out--just drill holes around the side and in the bottom of the trash bin and put it in the place where you want to make your compost. (If you have a larger yard you might want to build a compost bin out of old wood or pallets that you can get for free; if you live on a farm just make a pile and do not even bother building a structure to hold the compost.)
2.When you pick up a shovel full of dog stool, cover it with a shovel full of carbon material like grass clippings. (Since the carbon: nitrogen ratio of dog stool is about 6:1—similar to chicken manure and much better than cow manure—you only need to add about one scoop of carbon material to cover two scoops of stool.) I have a friend who is a carpenter so I always have access to wood shavings; that is what I use. If you want to use grass clippings that is fine, and since they rot quickly they are even a better choice.
3.Every few days (if you need a rigid schedule do it every Monday and Thursday) toss a shovel full of old compost on to the pile so that there will be beneficial bacteria to speed up the digestion. If you are starting out, just use dirt from your garden. If you have seen those other sites that tell you to buy a product and dump it on top of your compost, do not buy! Those "starter bacteria" are all found in dirt and you do not need to waste your money.
4.Keep the pile moist; if you have fish add their water when you are cleaning out their tank.
5.Optional: If you really want to produce high quality compost, add some worms. (This is called vermicomposting.) You will need to add fruit peelings and coffee grounds as an additional feed for the worms but they will also eat the dog stool. They will produce a high quality fertilizer. By the time the worms have consumed your dog stool compost you will have high quality humus that will contain no pathogens. There are many articles available on how to farm red worms and if you want to go this direction you really should read more. If you run into any that tell you not to use dog waste, they are wrong. They are repeating incorrect information.
An acquaintance of mine has an organic coffee plantation; he maintains all of the plants only on humus produced by his worms. If you have purchased organic coffee at Starbucks or your grocery store then you already use humus. If you use worms you will be able to produce your own.
If you are fecophobic you can add dog waste in biodegradable bags to your compost heap. It is going to take many more years to return to soil if you use this method, and I certainly do not suggest trying to add worms as they will have nothing to feed on.
Will Dog Feces Kill The Worms in My Compost?
Some dogs are given a monthly topical flea control or now take an oral flea control. These medications work in several ways but most of them affect the nervous system of insects. Those that do not cause the insect´s exoskeleton to not form correctly.
They all affect insects. Earthworms, those wonderful animals that help build your compost, are Annelids, not insects. There are no studies done to show that these products will affect your earthworms, even in massive quantities, and in the tiny quantities passed in dog feces the people recommending you not use dog feces for this reason are being ridiculous.
If you are willing to spend the time to compost your dog´s stool, I hope that you use natural flea control instead of applying yet another chemical to your dog.
How to use dog poop?
I would not eat a teaspoonful of dog waste compost. Neither would I eat a teaspoonful of humanure compost, chicken manure compost, or fresh dirt. If you have maintained a proper composting system the product will have no pathogens, but I still recommend it be used on your lawn, on your ornamental bushes, and around your trees. I have about a dozen coconut and many banana trees that are always searching for additional nutrients. If you have fruit trees, a hedge, or a lawn they will appreciate the compost and pay you back by flourishing.
The compost is ready to be used when it looks like regular soil. I cannot tell you an exact time because it will vary depending on your environmental conditions. If you live in the northern US your compost heap will not even heat up during the winter; here in the tropics (and with a healthy worm population working on my compost), my pile is usually ready to spread in about 3 months. I have compost piles in several areas and tend to leave it longer.
If you want to destroy our environment by selfishly throwing your dog´s stool into our landfills, or (even worse) buy a product that freezes the feces before you pick it up just so that the task will be a little easier, perhaps you are not the type of person who should even be owning a dog.
Think about it.
Are you ready to be a responsible dog owner?
Questions & Answers
In his book entitled "How to Start a Worm Bin" Henry Owens states not to use "dog or cat poop" that it is "toxic" and that "flea-killing meds can be especially toxic". I would think that the chemicals would have long since broken down, since flea meds need to be administered routinely or the dog is not protected. Would you speak to this?
People like Henry Owens are repeating stupid things they read from books and have no idea what is toxic. There is nothing wrong with using dog fecal material since, as you point out, any trace amount of chemical would have broken down in the months that the compost is decomposing. Even if there were a trace left in the feces, none of the flea preventatives are toxic to worms or lower worm fertility.
© 2012 Dr Mark